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Marketing Research

US Cell Phone Adoption Nears 90%

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, Generations and Their Gadgets, cell phones are by far the most popular device among American adults, with 85% of adults owning cell phones, and 90% of all adults living in a household with at least one working cell phone.

Polling in the age of cell phones is becoming an ever increasing challenge to pollsters. In many markets, it is important to add interviews over the cell phone to traditional random digit dial surveys of landline telephones to ensure that you are reaching a true representative sample of voters, customers, etc.  If you have any upcoming research plans, be sure you discuss the use of cell phones before you field any new projects.

Leveraging Social Media for New Product Ideas

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting article detailing how small businesses are increasingly using crowdsourcing via online communities to get quick advice or feedback on new ideas and products. The story highlights some businesses who are asking customers what they think via questions or polls on their Facebook, Twitter or blog sites, while others are using fee-based services such as Eyeka, Hypios and Jovoto to get ideas from freelancers, often using contests.

I’m a big proponent of leveraging communities to achieve goals, but I would suggest bringing in a professional researcher to help decipher the comments and structure the conversations if you plan to make significant changes to your products or services. While all input is helpful, having someone who can put it into context is an invaluable investment in your business and products.

Give Them What They Want

"Deceptively simple" but astute advice to small-business owners from USA TODAY columnist Steve Strauss: Ask customers what they want and then give it to them. There are lots of ways to solicit customer opinions, Strauss writes, including one-to-one chats, questionnaires and telemarketing.

Asking them what they want is deceptively simple. Believing what they tell you… that can be difficult. It is always easier to attack the message or the messenger than to own up to your customers opinion of your products and service. Don’t blame the messenger. Own your customer’s thoughts on your products and service. Those comments may be the spark that leads to increased customer retention, improved sales and the development of new products.  Don’t just ask, learn from your customers and your bottom-line will thank you.

Protect Your Brand, Customers and Reputation. It’s All You Have

In a tough economy, everyone is looking for ways to increase revenue. Organizations are making tough choices, customers are making tougher choices, and your people are doing everything they can to keep things moving forward.

This represents one of the most dangerous times for any business.

The tendency to do anything to increase revenue is tempting. But these short-term fixes can irreparably destroy the trust your customers, employees and peers have in your brand.

So how do you know if you are going too far?

Easy, ask your customers and your employees.  Marketing research is the only way to know what you’re your customers and employees are willing to accept.

Trust is built on two-way communication. It's about listening. To build trust, you have to clearly understand what your customers want and need from you and how they will react to new offerings or to changes in existing offerings.

Companies that listen to consumers, employees, and stakeholders will continue to produce excellent goods and services that will not compromise the quality and value that they expect from your brand.

Those who don’t listen are risking the one thing that will get them through the recession, their customers.

Pop Culture Research

Rasmussen Reports has some very interesting and out of the ordinary numbers this week. Here are a few favorites:

A little more than one out of three (35%) adults in Minnesota thinks the Minnesota Vikings will be a better team than last year with Brett Favre at the helm.

Forty-four percent (44%) of American adults think admission to U.S. national parks should always be free

Just seventeen percent (17%) of adults say 'American Idol' will be worse without Paula Abdul. Six percent (6%) believe the show will be better, while 47% say it will stay about the same.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Americans say they are at least somewhat likely to get the swine flu vaccine if it becomes available.

My opinion...

Favre will make little difference and needs to retire, of course National Parks should be free, Paula Abdul is seriously overestimating her appeal and no, I will not be getting a swine flu shot.

Some Just Have To Pay More For Vino

According to Scarborough Research, here are the top 15 DMAs for adults who spend $20 or more on wine:

New York, NY

San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, CA

Hartford/New Haven, CT

Los Angeles, CA

Miami/Ft.Lauderdale, FL

Bakersfield, CA

Columbus, OH

Fresno/Visalia, CA

Houston, TX

Knoxville, TN

Las Vegas, NV

Memphis, TN

Nashville, TN

Oklahoma City, OK

Philadelphia, PA

Most of these cities make total sense. However, I find it a bit odd that the three largest metros in Tennessee rank in the top 15. Tennessee’s liquor laws do restrict sales to independently owned and licensed liquor stores.  I have feeling that this is more related to higher than average wine prices in Tennessee instead of a penchant for a good wine.

Not to say that Tennessee doesn’t have good taste in wine, they just have to pay more for a good bottle of wine which pushes the numbers up.

Here’s a toast for the campaign for wine in Tennessee grocery stores . If they are successful in the next legislative session, they should be able to help the wallets of wine lovers in Tennessee and knock some of these cities off the list.

Who Buys Bacon? Apparently Tennessee

OK. I’ll admit that I have consumed my fair share of bacon over the course of my life. However, I’m a little frightened to learn that the five major metros in my home state are in the top ten DMA’s for bacon purchases.

According to MRI, here’s the top 10 DMAs for adults who used bacon or breakfast strips in the last six months:

1 Chattanooga, Tenn.

2 Mobile, Ala./ Pensacola (Ft. Walton Beach), Fla.

3 Tri-Cities, Tenn./ Va.

4 Louisville, Ky.

5 Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), Ala.

6 Jackson, Miss.

7 Knoxville, Tenn.

8 Huntsville/ Decatur (Florence), Ala.

9 Nashville, Tenn.

10 Memphis, Tenn.

Source: MRI's Market-by-Market study, www.mediamark.com

Apparently, Chattanooga now holds the distinction of being the nation’s cleanest city, and the porkiest.

Drink Less? No. Just Drink Cheaper

Back in April, YouGovPolimetrix' Brand Index released a report indicating that four brands - Coors' Keystone, A-B/InBev's Busch, Miller Brewing Co.'s Milwaukee's Best and Icehouse - are so besmirched that the breweries should consider retiring them.

Now this from the The Wall Street Journal:

At a cost about $5 less per case than flagship brands such as Bud Light or Miller Lite, beer companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are surviving the downturn thanks to rising sales of lower-cost beers, including Busch and Keystone Light.

Great quote from the story indicating why these brands are doing well.

Gillian Singletary, 24, of Los Angeles, has been buying more Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life and less Stella Artois and Pete's Wicked Ale. She said Blue Ribbon is seen as hip - in a retro way - at some L.A. bars.

"Drinking less doesn't really seem like the best option, so finding the cheapest way to drink is definitely one of my goals," said Ms. Singletary, a free-lance writer and executive assistant in the health-care industry.

I love this quote. It is a great illustration of the types of choices consumers use in making a purchasing decision. For this consumer, reducing consumption was not a viable choice. Selecting a less expensive alternative was the chosen path and with a stable of offerings at different price points, Busch and InBev are holding some of the business.

Not every brand will do well at every point in the business cycle. It is very important to remember the context of the economy and markets when analyzing research results and stated consumer choices. Otherwise, you might just kill off the product that would be your leading seller when the economy is down.

How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

Knowing and understanding your customer is important to any organization. It does not matter what industry or audience, understanding the wants and needs of your customer is absolutely critical.

One of the techniques I like to use when conducting voice of the customer type surveys is to test the questions on the requesting senior managers and management team.

Why you ask?

Most management teams think they have a strong understanding of their customers. By having the management team answer the questions how they think their customers will answer, I can compare how well they really know their customers.

Often the results don’t match and it is a real eye-opener to senior managers and line personnel. Plus, it is a great device to frame the results for your audience.

Fixing Detroit (The Big 3’s Real Problem)

Professor Byron Sharp of the University of South Australia, writing in this month’s Market Research Magazine from the AMA, makes an excellent point about the plight of the Big 3 us automakers.

In the US, customer loyalty rates for all manufactures including the Big 3 is in the 40% to 60% range. For the major domestic and foreign automakers, loyalty rates have remained pretty constant over the past few years at about 50%.

As Professor Sharp points out, the real problem for the Big 3 is acquisition, not loyalty. The lack of acquisition among new car buyers is eroding the market share of the domestic producers. For new auto buyers, the Big 3 are increasingly not considered an option and this is where Toyota, Honda and Nissan are stealing market share.

Customer loyalty and retention is important for all organizations and Targoz Strategic Marketing is skilled at helping organizations understand why customers are loyal and who is at risk.

Truly understanding why customers are loyal to your product or service is exceptionally important to maintaining a healthy brand and organization.

However, loyalty and retention is not a substitute for new business sales. Customer loyalty and retention only brings stability to organizations and creates a foundation for growth. Customer acquisition is the real key to brand growth and this is where Detroit needs to focus its energies.

What About Kohl's?

According to BIGresearch’s monthly national Consumer Intentions and Actions (CIA) Survey, Walmart is building a stronger hold on the Men’s sector, and Kohl’s continues to gain new customers in this department as well. Walmart tops the list, with 15.4% shopping there most often (up from 14% last year), while Kohl’s places second at 9.6%, increasing almost two points from ’08 (7.8%). JC Penney is third with 8.7% (also gaining from a year ago), while Macy’s (5.5%) and Target (3.2%) complete the Top 5.

While it is not a surprise that Walmart is up in any category, it is surprising that more people are not talking about Kohl’s. Kohl’s is well positioned for this market, and the current focus on private labels favors a retailer like Kohl’s. Judging from the stock charts for Kohl’s, I’m not the only one who has noticed. I just wished I had thought of it earlier.

Correlation vs. Causation

Okay, I have been traveling the past week and my email is full of Freakonomics moments. In the event you have not read the book, Freakonomics does a great job of illustrating the differences between coincidence and causality. In short, coincidence does not mean causality.

Our first moment is this interesting little story. Several blogs have linked to a story citing research from Professor Martin Schmeldon of Harvard Business School that suggests excessive Twitter use may have caused the current economic downturn. Here’s the fun chart included in the story.

Yes, this is a joke and yes, some are taking the story seriously. For the record, there does not appear to be a Professor Martin Schmeldon at Harvard.

However, it is a funny illustration of the folly of confusing correlation and causation and should be required reading for both journalists and marketers.

For those looking for a 10 second explanation on causality, here’s a great illustration. Enjoy!

For the marketers out there, here’s a little deeper explanation of what to look for when presented data purporting to illustrate a point like our Twitter story above.

First, these reports and analysis are based on observational studies - also called prospective or cohort studies. In these studies, researchers look for disparities between large populations of people with different attributes. If disparities are found to exist between the groups, then researchers try to make the case that the differences (i.e. diet, lifestyle, advertising, etc.) is the driving force behind the disparity.

The observational study demonstrates a correlation. But at this stage that would be just a hypothesis - not a fact. So how do you test your hypothesis?

For most applications, regression is the next step. Drug companies and medical researchers can conduct clinic trials, but for marketers, regression is usually the next step. In most cases, correlation and regression should typically be performed together.

Correlation analysis measures the degree of association between two sets of quantitative data. For example, how are sales of product A correlated with sales of product B? Correlation is usually followed by regression analysis.

Regression is a statistical technique for the modeling and analysis of numerical data consisting of dependent variables and of one or more independent variables. Basically, regression analysis is used to explain the variation in one variable (dependent variable) based on the variation in one or more other variables (called independent variables).

The goal of the analysis is to ascertain the causal effect of one variable upon another—the effect of a price increase upon demand, for example, or the effect of changes in the money supply upon the inflation rate. For marketers, regression is typically associated with questions of sales forecasting based on independent variables.

Regression analysis is valuable tool but one that is often misused. It takes considerably more skill to critique a model than to fit a model. But in the right hands, it is an invaluable tool that can help organizations model future sales, predict changes to sales and revenue based on actions by competitors, etc.

Data needs interpretation, to be understood and shaped to use in actionable (and profitable) ways. It is imperative that marketers (who are not in research) ask questions about the inputs used for the analysis. It is not necessary to understand the statistics used by the analyst or the consultant, but understanding the ingredients used by the analyst is very important.

Notice a Pattern?

According to MRI, here are the top 10 DMAs for adults who spent more than $150 on eyeglasses in the past 12 months:

  1. Ft. Smith/ Fayetteville/ Springdale/ Rodgers, Ark.
  2. Waco/ Temple/ Bryan, Ala.
  3. Huntsville/ Decatur (Florence), Ala.
  4. Minneapolis/ St. Paul
  5. Shreveport, La.
  6. Cedar Rapids/ Waterloo/ Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa
  7. Knoxville, Tenn.
  8. Louisville, Ky.
  9. Tri-Cities, Tenn./ Va.
  10. Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), Ala.

Source: MRI's Market-by-Market study

Notice any patterns in these cities?

Here’s a hint:

  1. University of Arkansas
  2. Baylor/Texas AM
  3. University of Alabama Huntsville/Alabama AM/Embry Riddle
  4. University of Minnesota
  5. Louisiana Tech/Grambling
  6. University of Iowa
  7. University of Tennessee
  8. University of Louisville
  9. East Tennessee State University/King College
  10. University of Alabama/University of Alabama Birmingham

Just a guess, but I would think per capita eyeglass purchases would be higher in towns close to a major university. The key to good research is to look beyond the bar charts and the top ten list. Understanding why these are top DMA’s is the real value of research.

Reporting vs. Analytics

According to Alterian, less than half (47%) of marketing professionals in North America and the U.K. are currently use analytics to measure online campaign results.

In this sixth annual marketing study from the analytics platform provider, 1,545 marketers, agencies, marketing services providers and systems integrators in the U.S. and U.K. were surveyed.

More than half (51%) reported using three to six applications in campaigns, another 23% reported using seven or more, and just 26% use two or fewer.

Two points.

First, reporting is an examination of “how we did,” while analytics is the actionable insights that can tell you “what is possible” or “how we can improve.” I’m not sure they make the distinction in the survey. It would be interesting to know how many who said they were using analytics actually know the difference.

Second, a lot of applications are being used. Do you get the sense that a lot of shops are saddled with WebTrends and are using other tools to get around the problems with the product? Google Analytics, the soon to be free Yahoo Analytics, and Omniture are the class leaders and I’m guessing they make up a large portion of the two or fewer group. Just a guess, the future for WebTrends is not bright.